Bandits, Favelas and Utopia in Brazilian Funk

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1 “Rocinha: Base of Cartel in Rio- Police Intelligence Concludes that the Favela is Connection for Colombian Narco-Trafficking in the City” (my translation)

2 It was suggested to me by my colleague Júlio Ludemir, author of Meu Coração no Comando and an expert on the Comando Vermelho, that the so-called “war” between the State and organized crime that was occurring in 2003 was been largely theatrical. He pointed out that the CV managed to effectively carry out its “terror campaign” with relatively few casualties, including police, exceptions being a nursing student at the Estácio de Sá university and an elderly woman who died in the first bus burning in February. In all subsequent bus burnings, the passengers were forced to get off the buses before they were torched. Despite the fact that almost all of the bombings were carried out in the middle of the night when the places that were attacked were empty, and that the shootings were aimed at buildings and not, say, crowds, the CVs terrorist campaign caused great fear in the population. I noticed during this period that the media in Rio often made the claim that the city was in the midst of the worst ever crisis of crime the city had ever known. In the short term, such an approach by the CV seemed likely to me to invite more draconian measures on the part of the state. They also lost some degree of street credibility, since many Rocinha residents I talked to felt that the CV was unfairly targeting poor people, who were more likely to be on buses than middle- and upper-class people. The CV must have decided that in the long run, it was a risk they were willing to take to see if they could scare the government into making deals and playing ball. While the authorities in Rio were criticized for their incompetent handling of the crisis and their desperate lack of any apparent plan whatsoever for dealing with the matter, it is also striking that the CV would be desperate enough to take such a risk.

Appendix: Lyrics of Proibidão and Other Funk Songs

I Proibidão

  1. MC One (from the favela of Rocinha)

    • “Sou da Rocinha”

    • “Vacilou, levou”

    • “Venho alerter”

    • “Papum, papum”

    • “Bonde do chi-cheiro”

    • “Bonde dos ladrões”

    • “Hoje eu sonhei”

    • “Bonde da fé”

  2. MC Two (from the favela of Formiga)

    • “Cachorro”

    • “Terror da boca”

    • “Cadê o esqueiro”

    • “Simpático”

    • “Traficando cultura”

  3. MC Three and Four (from the Cidade de Deus)

    • “Bota preta”

    • “Cuca louca”

    • “Rap da CDD”

    • “Favela Cercada”

  4. MC Five (from the favela of Rocinha)

    • “Bandidos de Cristo”

    • “Quem comanda a favela da Rocinha”

    • “Somos vermelho”

  5. MC Six (from the favela of Vidigal)

    • “Avisa lá”

    • “Menino sofredor”

  6. MC Seven (fro the favela of Borel)

    • “Rap da cadeia”

    • “Terceiro fraco”

  7. MC Eight (from the favela of Rocinha)

    • “Seus alemão safado”

  8. MCs Nine and Ten (from the favela of Borel)

    • “Rap do Borel/Versão Comando”

II Tati Quebra-Barraco (of the Cidade de Deus)

    • “Montagem assadinha/69”

    • Montagem pidona”

    • “Montagem cartão magnético”

    • “Montagem cardápio do amor”

    • “Montagem bota na tcheca”

III Some Funk Songs of the Mid-Nineties

  1. “Rap da Felicidade” (MC Cidnho and Doca)

  2. “Rap das armas” (MC Leonardo and Júnior)

  3. “Rap da liberdade” (MCs Willian and Duda)

“Rap da Rocinha” (MC Galo)

Notes on selection of songs

Songs that have specific gang references are illegal in Brazil and therefore are not played on the radio or sold in official CDs and albums. As a result, often more than one version of a song is written, one that is legal and can be played at all dances and on the radio, and one that is typically played live and sold on pirated CDs and tapes. This situation has many fascinating implications for the study of funk music. At one level, it reflects a certain democratization of recording technology in the availability of recording devices for cassette tapes and CD burners, as well as a well developed informal economy for the reproduction and distribution of such recordings in mass quantity. Additionally, since the people most directly profiting from the production and distribution of such recordings are the bootleggers and their salespeople, no money goes directly to the composers or composers who write and/or perform the songs. Nowadays, MCs often bring a computer disk to the show with the beats they want to sing along to. The DJ then simply plays this disk or mixes its beats together with other sound effects and musical samples. As a result, it is easy enough for the DJs and sound teams who are providing the music for the baile to make reasonably high quality recordings right through the equipment that is being used in the show. Many proibidão songs borrow the melodies of pop, samba, forró and even religious songs. The ironic word play, sampling, live improvisation and double-entendre in these illegal raps are typical characteristics of the aesthetics of Diaspora musical forms and strategies of subaltern popular culture in general, as is discussed in chapter four of this study.

In this appendix, I am including three types of songs. The first are songs that can be classified as proibidão per se, whether or not they are actually illegal. In most cases, they are, as will be suggested by the blatant glorification of the violence of specific gangs or drug traffickers. Because all of these songs were collected in Rocinha, a Comando Vermelho community, none of them speak for or praise either the Terceiro Comando (TC) or the Amigos dos Amigos (ADA) organizations. The lyrics of the proibidão songs have been transcribed from live, underground recordings made at bailes de comunidade, or community funk dances in favelas. In some cases, words that mention current leaders of the Rocinha Drug gang or the names of thieves and the like have been taken out. In addition, despite the desire to credit the composers and/or performers of these songs, given the fact that some individuals have been harassed, arrested and sued it seems more prudent to withhold their names. As I have mentioned in this study, some singers have experienced legal troubles for the content of their song lyrics, such as MCs Leonardo and Júnior, who are not even proibidão style performers (even much more mainstream acts outside of funk, such as the rock group Planet Hemp, famous for its apology for the use of marijuana, and hip-hop artist MV Bill, who used armed drug traffickers in his famous video for “Soldado do morro,” have had considerable legal problems for their art and have even spent time in jail). The Tim Lopes scandal aside, it is not so common for police to confiscate proibidão CDs, fine vendors or harass funk singers, and when I asked a police officer on the beach in the Leblon neighborhood of Rio whether or not he would personally arrest anyone over proibidão, he told me that he likes such music and that he buys it for his kids!

The second group of songs is a collection of verses from montagens, or musical/lyrical montages, by Tati Quebra-Barraco. These I have included for two reasons: first, they are representative of the tendency in funk to use heavily sexual lyrics and metaphors; second, Tati is a huge figure in funk and the only female MC who has had the kind of permanence of male MCs like Galo, Catra, the duo Cidinho and Doca, Duda or Mascote. The third group of songs is comprised of lyrics of legal songs that were big hits in the mid-nineties and are typical of many of the characteristics of mainstream funk. Since the lyrics to such songs are somewhat easily available in other sources, I have only included four in this appendix. While transcribing lyrics for this appendix, no attempt has been made to make lexical, morphological or syntactical corrections. In the place of words that could not be deciphered due to lack of sound clarity, dots have been added. Any words purposely taken out to protect specific thieves and drug traffickers, the symbol ### has been added.

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